Film review: The Lobster (2016)

This is one truly weird film. I watched it because the capsule description said it was a comedy and it had many well-known good actors such as Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz, Olivia Colman (who seems to be in everything these days), Ben Whishaw, and John C. Reilly. I did not laugh even once. Instead I watched it with a kind of curious fascination, trying to figure out to what the hell it was all about, what message the film makers were trying to convey. I still don’t know.

The story is set in a dystopian future where everyone must have a partner they are in love with. If they lose their partner for whatever reason, they are taken to this resort hotel where they have 45 days to find a true romantic partner or they will be transformed into an animal. Yes, indeedy! The good news is that they can choose what animal they become.

Colin Farrell plays David (the only person with a name in the film) whose wife dumps him and he ends up in the hotel with his dog Robert, who was his brother before he lost his partner and failed to find a new one in the 45 days. During the day, the hotel residents are given tranquilizer guns and taken to the woods where they hunt down single people called loners who have completely rejected romance and who live there as fugitives and also as some kind of guerilla resistance. The more loners that a hunter gets, the more extensions they get in the days to find a partner.

In addition to the weird story, the script, direction, and acting are also bizarre. The actors deliver their lines with flat affectless voices, no emotion at all, like a novice actor would do who is so fixated on correctly remembering the words that they forget to convey any meaning. The dialogue is full of banalities and non sequiturs and the film cuts back and forth between scenes abruptly. One example is the opening scene that shows a tense-looking woman driving alone along a country road on a rainy overcast day. At some point she stops the car, gets out and walks onto a field that has three donkeys, and shoots one of them dead. She then gets back in the car and drives off. She is never seen in the film again nor is she or the incident referred to by anyone else.

The film was directed and written by a Yorgos Lanthimos, and Rotten Tomatoes gives it a high critics rating of 88% and an audience rating of 65%, calling it “a thrillingly audacious vision fully brought to life by Lanthimos and his terrific cast. The filmmaker displays a completely singular style and mastery of tone, finding the perfect balance between sharp-edged satire and romantic fable that entertains its audience while also leaving them with lots to reflect on long after the credits have rolled.”

I reflected a lot alright, wondering what on Earth I had just watched.

I realized what had happened. I had inadvertently stumbled into seeing High Art, a genre that film critics love but is quite foreign to my low- and middle-brow tastes and which usually leaves me baffled. I cannot recommend this film at all but bear in mind that I am definitely not the target audience for it.

Here’s the trailer.

The full film is inexplicably available to stream for free here, which I would imagine violates all manner of copyright laws.


  1. sonofrojblake says

    “Olivia Colman (who seems to be in everything these days)”

    If you know Doctor Who at all, you might know the best thing they did for the fiftieth anniversary was not the triumphantly brilliant episode, nor the lead in webisode, but the spoof “Fiveish Doctors” thing written by fifth Doctor Peter Davison. If you can, just watch the first minute.

  2. Charles Sullivan says

    I haven’t seen this film, but I did see a film by the same director. It was called “Dogtooth”. It was thoroughly strange, but I kind of liked it. I think.

  3. Reginald Selkirk says

    For a current example, there is a movie out about World War I of the title 1917. The thing that will thrill the critics -- and Kenneth Turan went on about this for a couple of minutes on NPR -- is that the movie is apparently shot in one very long take. Turan ran on so long about this he didn’t have time to say anything about solid plotting or character development or intelligent dialogue.

  4. says

    I enjoyed it, but yes, it was very weird and made no sense. It’s also quite horrifying and I would likely choose suicide over losing everything that makes me me (as a back-up plan, I’d choose to be turned into a blue whale because that must use a lot of their resources).

  5. file thirteen says

    @Tabby #7, @Mano

    Yes, when I saw it it was in the horror section. Although a comedy, it’s very, very dark. I didn’t laugh either.

  6. Mano Singham says

    sonofrojblake @#3,

    Thanks for the tip about the Dr. Who spoof. I watched the whole thing (and saw why you referred to the first minute) and found it quite enjoyable. Even though I have not watched the Dr. Who series at all, I know enough about it and have watched enough parodies and spoofs to be able to follow what was going on.

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